The mother of a nurse who works at a hospital in Lincolnshire has written an emotional letter to local MPs and the media warning of the negative culture that exists there.
The letter does not go into specifics on services or particular concerns but paints a harrowing picture of her daughter’s experience as a nurse at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust.
“I know she has tried to speak to senior managers several times about her concerns and issues”
The woman, who has not been named, said that her daughter’s “concerns and issues” had been dismissed or ignored by managers at the trust’s Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby.
But the nurse could not speak out in public “for fear of repercussion” and the loss of her job, stated the hand-written letter, extracts of which have appeared in the local and national media.
“The greatest driver is her many patients and hence she doesn’t air her views publicly,” it said, adding that the nurse often “returned home crying, unable to sleep for worry”.
“Sadly, though over the past year I have watched my daughter fade before my eyes, I cannot remember the last time I saw her happy on returning from work,” said the letter.
“I know she has tried to speak to senior managers several times about her concerns and issues but has been dismissed or implied other things are more important,” it said.
“In an age where the hospital is struggling to recruit nurses, I would have thought it vital to hang on to the experienced staff they have and listen to their concerns,” the letter added.
“Sadly, though over the past year I have watched my daughter fade before my eyes”
To maintain anonymity, the letter was passed through a third party to the Grimsby Telegraph, local MPs Melanie Onn and Martin Vickers and the trust itself.
In response, trust chief executive Dr Peter Reading said a top priority for management was to allow staff to speak openly about problems. He said: “I was saddened to learn that this loyal and dedicated member of staff feels she cannot air her concerns and that when she does, management dismisses them.
“I know there has been a culture in our hospitals that has made it difficult for some staff to raise their concerns. This is something that we are addressing as a top priority,” he told the Grimsby Telegraph.
The letter comes in the same week that the trust was criticised by the National Guardian’s Office, which provides advice and support on the role of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians for trusts.
The office was set up in 2016 in the wake of the Freedom to Speak Up Review into whistleblowing in the NHS in England, which was chaired by Sir Robert Francis and reported in February 2015.
In its case review on the trust, the guardian’s office said it had revealed “significant opportunities for the culture of speaking up” at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole to be “improved”.
Dr Henrietta Hughes, the National Guardian for the NHS, said: “We received information that the trust’s support for its workers to speak up was not always in keeping with good practice, including instances where workers had spoken up anonymously to the Care Quality Commission.
“Our review found that the trust had failed to respond appropriately, including where staff had raised serious safety issues,” she said. “We also found evidence of the existence of bullying in the trust and a bullying culture within specific teams that made workers fear the consequences of speaking up.”
“The trust had failed to respond appropriately, including where staff had raised serious safety issues”
The findings detailed in the guardian’s report included reference to the fact there was no specific training for staff on how to speak up, or for managers to support those speaking up, or how to handle matters raised.
Some of the trust’s policies and processes were also highlighted in the report, with their speaking up policy not meeting national minimum standards and their bullying and harassment policy needing improvement to ensure it met the standards set out in guidance by NHS Employers.
However, the review noted examples of good practice including a “robust recruitment process” to select staff to undertake guardian roles and the improvement of HR processes to ensure they were more supportive of workers who speak up.
“It’s good to see some activities are already being pursued by the trust and we hope the our report will help them to improve and draw together an action plan,” said Dr Hughes.
In April last year, the trust was put back into “special measures”, after inspectors raised serious concerns about quality, safety and ongoing staffing issues.
The move by NHS Improvement followed an inspection by the Care Quality Commission, which covered Scunthorpe General Hospital, Diana Princess of Wales Hospital and community services.
Inspectors, who rated the trust “inadequate” overall, identified significant issues in outpatients, maternity and in urgent and emergency care.
The letter’s claims also come in the same week that the highly critical findings of an independent review were published about Liverpool Community NHS Trust.
The scathing report, which has echoes of the Francis report, said that when staff there reported difficulty in maintaining safe and effective services, they did not feel listened to.
The letter in full, as printed by the Grimsby Telegraph
“I am writing this letter in response to the recent media coverage of the allegations made against the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Trust, but I am also writing on behalf of my daughter, a nurse at the trust, who cannot speak out for fear of repercussion and loss of job.
I know as any mother I am biased about the capabilities of my daughter, but I have been approached numerous times by her friends, colleagues and even her patients all supporting the fact that she is an excellent nurse.
My daughter has a loyalty to the trust which I feel is highly misplaced, but I know for her, the greatest driver is her many patients and hence she doesn’t air her views publicly.
Sadly, though over the past year I have watched my daughter fade before my eyes, I cannot remember the last time I saw her happy on returning from work.
I can though name every day, which is most now, she has returned home crying, unable to sleep for worry and although she puts a brave face on everything, behind her eyes is sadness.
I know she has tried to speak to senior managers several times about her concerns and issues but has been dismissed or implied other things are more important.
In an age where the hospital is struggling to recruit nurses, I would have thought it vital to hang on to the experienced staff they have and listen to their concerns.
My family and I have urged my daughter to leave the hospital. We understand and applaud her passion for the job, but not at the detriment of her health.
The trust states if you speak out and then lose your job, you will be compensated. How is this statement supposed to encourage staff to speak up when they will lose a career they love.
I urge every family member or friend who is reading this letter to join me and support our nurses, who have tried to speak out to managers to no avail and who cannot speak out publicly, tell their stories for them and don’t allow them to be swept under the carpet.”